The “all-brands” diagnostic system adopted by the WheelTime Network of service shops comes from a Spanish company whose leaders saw the need for a versatile testing device as adjuncts to their growing line of commercial truck components for the aftermarket.
Cojali Group, headquartered in the La Mancha region of Spain known for windmills and wine, began in 1991 to make replacement fan drives, then expanded into air brake components and refurbishing of electronic control units, and the supplying software and training for mechanics, executives said in briefings for press reporters last Thursday and Friday. They included a tour of their modern plant at Campo de Criptana, about two hours southeast of Madrid.
Many truck parts are electronically controlled, and Cojali’s engineers and product planners noted that diagnostic tools for them came from original-equipment makers of such parts, said Jose Ramon Serrano, director of sales and business development. This required truck owners and service shops to acquire many tools, adding expense and a training burden to the maintenance process. A single tool would considerable save time and money.
So over several years they developed a diagnostic tool for European heavy, medium-duty trucks and buses and light-duty trucks. It carries the company’s Jaltest brand name. Through a later study executives saw the need for such a device in North America.
They showed the tool at the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Association’s 2010 meeting and expo in Las Vegas, where it was spotted by Mike Delaney, WheelTime’s chief executive officer, related Jill Gingrich, who heads WheelTime’s marketing and customer service functions.
“Mike Delaney found that Cojali had this solution available in Europe and elsewhere in the world, and that it was unique and not available anywhere else,” she said. So WheelTime began working with Cojali to perfect the tool for NorthAmerican-made vehicles and components, and prepare it for use by the many shops in its network.
Its previous research and feedback from its 17-owner-members had determined that accurate diagnosing of problems in modern trucks with their many electromechanical systems was the “weak link” in efficient maintenance.
Use of the Jaltest tool will help deliver on its guarantee to diagnose a problem within two hours of a truck’s arrival at a WheelTime shop, prepare an accurate repair estimate, and “fix it right the first time,” she said.
So WheelTime acquired 188 of the tools, one for each service location with probably more to follow, Gingrich said. And in a deal the companies announced in April, WheelTime is acting as Cojali’s agent to sell additional copies to other customers in North America (http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/aftermarket/news/story/2013/04/wheeltime-to-sell-cojali-diagnostic-tool-in-north-america.aspx).
WheelTime’s technician-trainers have been instructed on the Jaltest system’s use by Cojali specialists, and have trained technicians in the U.S. and Canada. They’ll also train mechanics at future customer facilities, Gingrich and Serrano said. Cojali’s product-support people in Spain will back up WheelTime’s efforts.
WheelTime’s agreement with Cojali Group runs through 2015 and automatically renews beyond that, Gingrich said.
Independent repair shops and OEM dealers are likely buyers for Jaltest tools, Conjali executives said. Both are faced with buying brand- and model-specific diagnostic tools for electronically controlled components, and studies indicate that OEM dealers want to diversify their repair businesses into handling truck makes besides those they sell and maintain.
Like other diagnostic tools, the Jaltest device communicates with a vehicle’s electronic controls and the sensors connected to them, determining where problems are and suggesting ways to correct them, said Fernando Iniesta, Cojali’s director of engineering.
Unlike other tools, which are usually specific to one line of products, the Jaltest system has data on many makes and models of engines and components gathered from various sources, including their manufacturers.
It will support 85% to 90% of everyday diagnostic and repair activities done by typical shops, Iniesta said. Cojali has diagnostic data that now encompass 250 brands and 1,200 models worldwide.
The Jaltest tool works with OEMs’ on-board microcomputers and sensors, including those from all major truck and component builders in North America, but does not compromise proprietary information.
The scanning tool runs on a Windows operating system, and Cojali has advanced to the latest version, Windows 8. The tool’s software can be loaded onto a Windows-based laptop or tablet, or a customer can opt for a Jaltest tablet on which to run it.
All items in a Jaltest kit, including a selection of connector cables and an interface box, are ruggedly built to survive the sometimes rough handling in a repair shop, Iniesta and Serrano said.
A Jaltest scanner is priced at about $5,200 and can substitute for individual tools that cost $12,000 to $15,000, Iniesta said. It will work with a shop’s existing tools if desired, and does diagnostics on most heavy and midrange trucks and buses, now used in North America, as well as popular light trucks. Soon there’ll also be a product for trailers.
For about $1,000 per year, customers will get access to data updates that will come periodically, perhaps quarterly, Iniesta and Serrano said. Customers will be notified of updates by e-mail, and will download them from “the cloud” rather than receive them on discs.
Ideally, each technician in a shop will have a Jaltest kit, but Cojali and WheelTime executives expect that initially there’ll be one per shop until customers see a need, and an advantage, in buying more.
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